After a cryptic and inexplicable text to her four grown children, Joy Delaney disappears on Valentine’s Day. A missing person’s report is filed. Her husband, Stan, is looking mighty suspicious. The police are searching for a young woman named Savannah who stayed with the Delaneys for a few weeks about six months back. Everyone is keeping secrets, and with each passing day, it looks more and more like Joy may have been murdered.
I have lots of thoughts about this book, starting with a revelation I had after I finished it. This is literally the first Moriarty book I’ve listed on the blog as an audio-listen instead of a print-read, and yet, I feel like half of the books I’ve read by her have been via audio. What Alice Forgot is an exception, because I’ve listened to that one several dozen times (though apparently I read it in print the first time, according to my blog!). But I thought I’d listened to Big Little Lies (my first by her, and no, I’ve not seen the show) and especially Nine Perfect Strangers (my most recent before this one). Apparently not. The books are written in such a strong voice that I can actually hear them spoken in my head! That’s kinda awesome.
Moriarty is a bit hit or miss for me, though more hit than miss. This turned out to be one of the good ones. It’s a complicated look into the intricacies of family life, and especially of long-term marriage. The story is wrapped up in tennis, as the Delaneys are a tennis family (all six of them playing in tournaments, the two parents running a tennis school, etc). It’s the thematic element of their life, as Joy puts it when she’s accompanying her friend to a memoir-writing class. It’s also the root of a lot of passion, and therefore both happiness, grief, and secrets. Issues (with a capital I) come to the surface when Savannah enters the Delaneys’ lives. As you can guess, she’s not who she first appears to be when she lands on their door late one night, barefoot, her face cut open, sobbing.
My favorite thing about Moriarty’s books is how well she explores human interactions and relationships. Apples Never Fall is written in a similar format to Big Little Lies, with some back-and-forth time narration and parts of the story told from outside observation by unimportant – sometimes unnamed – characters. The result is a well-rounded story with many threads all tangled together. In real life, even when folks try to figure out where a thing began or where it went all wrong, it’s too messy to fit easily into any kind of classification. The book is the same.
Performance: The audiobook was read by Caroline Lee. It’s my first experience with her narration, and I enjoyed all of it except her attempts to speak with American accents. They were very cringy, as I imagine non-American accents spoken by American narrators are cringy to those familiar with what they’re imitating. However, that was a very minor portion of the audiobook, and the rest was fantastic!
Trigger warning for the book: There is discussion of child abuse and domestic violence. There’s also a disturbing ambiguous end to one thread of stories that could really upset some readers.
Note: My audiobook cover doesn’t show the tennis net portion of this book cover, which is a shame! I thought the apples were just sitting on a table. Glad to see the full cover afterwards!